How to Save Money Even on a Tight Budget

Saving money is important, but sometimes it can be hard to find extra money to save – right? While saving money can often be a challenge, it’s not impossible to do – even on a strict budget. Here are three ways you may be able to save when your spare funds are on the lower side.

Find deals online: Sites like Groupon or Living Social have a lot of deals in terms of entertainment and dining out. Did you know you can use them for much more? Both often have deals on electronics, automotive repair, health and beauty, home services and more! The best way to find these deals is to register with your zip code and browse around to find how you can save locally. If these are products and services that you’re already going to pay for or that you’re in need of, saving money in the process is an added bonus!

Trim it up: When you go on a diet, you may notice a little bit of weight loss in several different areas of your body. You should treat your budget the exact same way. Don’t try to cut back on (or completely cut out) one budget item, but trim a few dollars from different places. Some bills you aren’t going to be able to budge on, but you will most likely find a few areas you can cut back here and there. Take advantage of these savings and you’ll start to see it add up. Plus, you won’t feel as if you’re cutting anything out of your budget completely.

Spend more time at home: The more you’re out and about, the more you’re going to eat meals out and spend money on items you don’t really need. Instead of meeting your friends out for dinner and a movie, host a potluck dinner (ask everyone to bring something) – and watch your favorite movie or rent one from your local Redbox. You’ll save money, plus you can pause the movie when you need to and not spend a fortune on movie theater snacks. That’s a win-win for everyone!

Need help budgeting? Check out our online budgeting fillable worksheet!

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

 

How to Create an Easy to Follow Budget

Are you the type of person that when you see something you like, you just buy it? It really is important to plan for the future and really take hold of your finances. If you or someone you know doesn’t budget well, here are a few easy ways to get started.

Housing: This category will most likely be the largest portion of your budget. If you’re a homeowner, along with the mortgage, insurance, and property taxes – make sure you include necessary utilities (gas, sewer, electric, etc.), and some extra cash for any emergency repairs. If you’re renting, you’ll still have to budget for your monthly rent and any utilities.

Transportation: When it comes to transportation, there’s a lot more than just your monthly car payment. Gas, insurance, and preventative maintenance such as oil changes – should also be included within your budget. This is another area where it’s a good idea to save some extra cash for any repairs you may not see coming. Planning ahead will help keep your car on the road, which will also keep money in your pocket.

Life: This budget category will cover a lot (think food, health insurance, medical, clothing, entertainment, wireless, tuition, childcare, etc.). All of these items will add up to a sizable portion of your budget. You may need to separate some into their own category and monitor them.

Debt and Savings: This final category is one of the most important. Saving money for your future (401k, Roth IRA) is something you want to make sure you’re doing every month. The earlier you start, the better. You’ll be surprised at how a little each month can add up over time when you make use of compound interest. Also, make sure you’re steadily paying down any debt you have – so you can enjoy your financial freedom.

Need help setting up a budget? Check out our budgeting guide.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Don’t Fall into the Unexpected Expenses Trap

Let’s face it – adulting is hard. How many times have you and your friends sat around talking about the time when you had little to no responsibility? Long before the days of mortgages, kids and car payments. The carefree days when thinking about life insurance, retirement and 401(k)s seemed light years away.

Planning for the future and life’s unexpected events can be overwhelming, but it can also be  extremely beneficial. There’s a sense of financial security that comes with knowing you have a plan in place to handle the curve balls life likes to throw at you.

Create a budget

Having a budget isn’t a bad thing. Consider your budget a reflection of your priorities and values, rather than depriving yourself of the things you enjoy. Creating and keeping a monthly budget is the key to long lasting financial planning. It allows your money to work for you as you’re giving each dollar a purpose. It puts you back in control of your money.

No matter how much your income is, there’s always the potential to spend more than you make. There are several ways to set up a budget, but it ultimately comes down to what works best for you. Check out our budgeting 101 guidebook here.

Build up your emergency fund

There’s a quote that says, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

No matter how good or solid our plans may seem, sometimes life happens and our plans are pushed to the side. What happens if your car breaks down, you have to move, or your water heater has to be replaced? Illness and employment are equally as unpredictable. If you are laid off, how long could you pay your bills without living off credit cards or borrowing money? You’re not alone. Did you know that 40 percent of Americans can’t cover a $400 expense out of pocket?

This is why an emergency fund is paramount. Completely separate from a savings account, your emergency fund is specifically designed to cover your necessary monthly expenses.  Ideally, you should keep three to six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund at all times. Why? It covers you in the event of a layoff or medical emergency that leaves you unable to work.

Eliminate your debt

Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning & Progress Study showed that the average American has about $38,000 in personal debt, excluding home mortgages. Typically, that debt is a combination of credit cards, student loans, car loans, and personal loans. Credit card debt accounted for 25% of that debt. The study further showed that 2 in 10 Americans spend anywhere from 50% to 100% of their monthly income on debt repayment.

These are staggering facts. But there is hope in those dismal numbers. Getting out of debt takes discipline, and it’s not easy. Start by paying more than the minimum payment. If you’re only making the minimum payment, you’re only paying interest and not attacking the principle. Anything over the minimum payment is applied to the principle and knocks out that balance faster.

There are many helpful methods to reduce debt, and there are several free online and mobile debt repayment tools to help you track your progress as you pay down balances. Check out our credit management and debt reduction guidebook here.

Invest in your future

It’s never too early to invest in your future. If you don’t have a retirement plan such as a 401(k), IRA or stock investments – get one.

If you already have a retirement plan, that’s awesome! Think about increasing the percentage you’re contributing. It helps you save without making an effort, allows you to take advantage of the compound interest, and it reduces your taxable income.

Financial planning is just as personalized as each member we serve at First Financial. Let us help you get your future on track, by making an appointment with our Investment and Retirement Center.* Stop by your local branch or give us a call at 732.312.1500.

 *Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

6 Easy to Forget Expenses to Include in Your Budget

Creating a budget is never easy, it can take months or even years to perfect the process. Plus, life is always changing so a budget that worked a few months ago might not necessarily work now. One of the most common reasons people find budgeting so hard is because there are so many different expenses to keep track of. The big ones, like housing and food, are pretty obvious. However, often there are little things we forget about that can derail a budget from the start.

The next time you evaluate your budget, consider these six expenses that people often forget to plan ahead on:

1. Celebrations

It seems like every week, we’re always celebrating something. From birthdays to weddings to holidays, our schedules are jam packed with social events. However, we often forget that these celebrations come with hefty price tags. Gifts, travel costs, and party attire can add up quickly. Not accounting for these items can really throw your budget off. For example, if you know you have a few weddings coming up in the next year, be sure to set aside funds to cover any associated costs. Also be sure to increase your budget during the holiday season to account for gifts and travel.

2. Pet Care

We love our pets, but there’s no denying that caring for them can get expensive. We tend to only think of pet care expenses in terms of things they use everyday, like food – but any pet owner knows that there are many other major costs associated with our furry friends. Healthcare, including regular veterinary visits, is a big one. Grooming and pet sitting is another. These are expenses for your pet that may not happen every month, but they’re regular enough that you should include them in your annual budget.

3. Coffee

Any good budget will include a category for food and dining, but don’t forget to include coffee in there as well. We all know how much a cup of coffee can cost – anywhere from $2 for a regular cup to $6 for a latte. Whether you make your own or go to your local Starbucks, make sure you understand how much you’re really spending on your coffee addiction every month.

4. Home Maintenance

Many first time homeowners are unpleasantly surprised by the cost of home maintenance. Aside from utilities and minor repairs, there are several recurring expenses, such as lawn maintenance, landscaping and weather proofing that homeowners often forget. Expenses like these can drive up the cost of owning a home considerably.

5. Me Fund

When we’re trying to stick to a tight budget, we often forget about ourselves. If you’re trying to cut your budget, spending on things you enjoy is likely the first expense to go. Don’t underestimate the value of having a me fund, though. It can be anything, from a night out to a pedicure – but doing even something small from time to time can drastically improve your mood and increase your productivity.

6. Emergency Fund

The one thing people most often forget to account for is an emergency fund. This is also the most important.  In life, you never really know what can happen, and you need an emergency fund to protect you from whatever life throws your way. Your budget should include a portion set aside for emergencies. Many recommend that you have 3 months of expenses on hand at any given moment. You can decide the amount you’re comfortable with and then start to save up for it. Just remember to make this a priority.

Need help setting up a budget? Check out our easy Budgeting Guidebook and Worksheet.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com

4 Simple Categories to Create Your Budget

It’s the new year – do you have a budget plan in place? If not, here are some great places to start!

1. Housing

Having a place for all of your stuff and somewhere to lay your head should probably be your biggest priority, so as you can imagine this category will be a large portion of your budget. Along with the mortgage, insurance and property taxes, make sure you include repairs and necessary utilities like gas and electric.

2. Transportation

Remember that when it comes to transportation, it’s more than just your car payment. Gas, insurance, repairs, and preventative maintenance like oil changes should all be included. Planning ahead will help keep your car on the road, which will keep money in your pocket.

3. Life

This category is huge. Several categories could be made out of this one, but if you want to keep it all together, it should include the following:

  • Cell phone
  • Food (at home or at a restaurant)
  • Health insurance
  • Medicine
  • Clothing
  • Entertainment
  • Tuition
  • Childcare

All of these things will add up to a large percentage of your budget, so if separating them into their own categories will help you, definitely do that.

4. Savings/Debt

This final category is one of the most important. Saving money for your future is something you want to make sure you’re doing every month. The earlier you start, the better. You’ll be surprised at how a little bit each month can really add up. Also make sure you’re steadily paying down your debt, whether it’s credit cards or student loans. Focus on paying them off and enjoy the freedom you’ll feel when that’s all accomplished.

Learn to create your own budget with our handy budgeting worksheet!

Article Source: John Pettit for CUinsight.com

 

How to Recover from a Blown Budget

Went a little crazy on holiday shopping and now your budget is completely off track? Get back on the path to financial freedom and kick off the new year with the following tips:

  1. Stop dwelling. Going over your budget isn’t fun, but it’s not the end of the world. Life happens and you can’t be perfect all the time. Acknowledge that you messed up, then move on. Obsessing about it isn’t going to bring your money back.
  2. Get back into your old routine. Play a little bit of catch up: pay your bills, balance your checkbook, and schedule transfers to pay off some debt if possible. Sometimes when you fall off track, it makes you want to stay off track. It takes more effort to jump back on the bandwagon than it does to remain on the same path. That’s why it’s important to get back into your old routine as soon as you have the chance. Get everything caught up, map out a plan for the remainder of the month, and immediately return to your former routine.
  3. Temporarily cut expenses. If you need to cut back, consider the following tactics:
  • Eat at home until you’ve cleaned your shelves/refrigerator/freezer out.
  • Have “no-spend” days, when you don’t spend a single penny.
  • Skip paid entertainment and opt for board game nights or movies at home.

If you’re still facing a budget discrepancy, you may have to look for extra ways to earn money for the month. Consider selling clothes, furniture, and appliances that are in good condition but that you no longer use. Or can you pick up extra hours at work, or get a part-time job?

If you’ve blown your budget, the important thing is to pick up where you left off and get back to your budget as soon as possible.

Need help creating an organized household budget? Check out our budgeting guide and budgeting fillable PDF worksheet.

Article Source: Alexa Mason for Moneyning.com